Giorgi Tabagari has called the violent attack against Tbilisi Pride an “eye-opening” moment for LGBTQ+ rights in Georgia.
Shocking footage posted by the LGBTQ+ activists showed their right-wing opponents scaling their building to reach the balcony, where they tore down rainbow flags and were seen breaking into their office.
Other footage showed a journalist with blood around his mouth and nose, and another counter-protestor driving towards journalists on a scooter. Tabagari said he was “nearly killed” by the violent mob in an interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In response to the attack on Tbilisi Pride – which saw 55 people injured, most of which were journalists – thousands of people gathered outside parliament on Tuesday (6 July) in support of the LGBTQ+ community with rainbow flags and coloured smoke bombs, while chanting “Georgia Georgia”.
Tabagari called the pro-LGBTQ+ ally “truly historic” for the former Soviet Republic.
“We are winning the information war. It was an important eye-opening for a lot of people who were not previously so supportive of LGBT+ rights but now see it’s a common challenge,” he said. “I think this is a positive outcome of the whole week.”
Although Georgia has remained conservative on social issues, liberals and religious conservatives have clashed due to the introduction of progressive legislation. Despite this, homophobia is still dominant in the country and LGBTQ+ rights groups have condemned the lack of protection from law enforcement officials.
Tbilisi’s Pride event was also denounced by the Orthodox Church and conservatives, who claimed the celebrations had no place in the country, while Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said the march was “not reasonable” and would cause conflict.
“We saw the state system failing to provide an adequate response,” Tabagari told Thomas Reuters Foundation. “Our Pride is more of a resistance and we still have to fight for survival and to have our place in society. I am really exhausted. I want to escape somewhere, hide for some time and not think about anything, just rest.”
Tabargari aims to organise another event for Tbilisi Pride for 2022.
“Lots of people from the queer community went out on the streets, despite facing serious life-threatening challenges,” he added. “The community is getting empowered. More and more people are speaking out for their rights and for their liberties – and this is exactly what is going to bring changes in the end.”